Thursday, April 2, 2009

"How to Get Unstuck. Dealing with Creative Blocks"

This post is especially dedicated to the sweat dripping, hands wringing, nail biting, and eye tearing budding artists. Likewise, here is insight for the sleepy eyed old dog that refuses to learn new tricks.

If you ever asked, "how to get unstuck?” Well friends, this is how to deal with your creative blocks...

1. Turn off your television.

2. Set aside special time daily or weekly to create your art.

3. Set aside a special designated place to work, i.e. garage, attic, a drawing table, a place in your garden with a great view or any place where you can escape.

4. Get rid of idle web surfing. Make the Internet a tool, not an addictive drug.

5. Don't allow family, friends, associates and enemies to pull you away from making your art.

6. Find music that inspires you. "I love jazz!"

7. You must be willing to change your style. If you've been a plein-aire painter since Jacob was a pup, try something new. Paint an abstract or photo-realistic piece.

8. Find a mentor or coach.

9. Humble yourself. Follow the leadership of your mentor/coach.

10. Try a new medium. If you traditionally work in watercolor, try oils. You're a painter, but ceramics always fascinated you. Give ceramics a try.

11. Don't fear change. Read "Who Moved My Cheese."

12. Pray about it, and then get to work. God isn't going to paint the canvas for you. "Faith without works is dead."

13. Read art history.

14. Keep art journals containing your ideas, concepts, and sketches.

15. Don't allow the cost of art materials to justify not making art. There are student grade and low cost art supplies available. Also, if you sell your art pieces, you'll regain your initial investment.

16. Be disciplined and work faithfully. Eventually, you'll get excited and have lots of fun.

17. Have fun making art. If you look at it like a "job," you'll treat it like a job. You'll quit.

18. Fall in love with making art. No one should have to force you to do what you love.

19. Study children as they make art. They don't have too many rules. Kids are free spirits.

20. Don't be lazy. Most artists are lazy, so get up and get to work.

21. Don't allow your tattoos, piercings, colorful hair, drug usage, odd clothes and artist's lifestyle to represent you more than the art you create. Once again, get to work!

22. Find a favorite artist and copy their style. I promise you, you'll never be another Picasso, Rembrandt, or Norman Rockwell, but you'll be a better artist when it's all said and done.

23. Work in series, for example, Degas's ballerinas, Monet's haystacks, and Andy Warhol's Campbell Soup Cans.

24. Visit museums, galleries, and art studios to gain inspiration.

25. Stop making excuses. "My cat had puppies." "If I had a studio like McRay, I'd paint." "One day when the world is at peace, I'll start drawing again." I know my examples are silly, but not far from the truth. I've heard excuses very close to those.

I hope this helps, McRay


Darrell said...

If anything guarantees a creative block for me it’s working on a project I don’t want to work on. The 9 to 5 gives me enough drudgery that I really don’t want to deal with any when it comes to art. August Wilson had the same take on creative blocks that you do: he didn’t believe in them. Had no sympathy for people who let it stop them. His solution was simple: you work. You keep working. You put anything on the page even if it’s crap, but you can’t let stuff stay compacted up there (in your brain), giving you a complex. ‘Cause supposedly the scariest thing to a writer is the blank page. The blank canvas might be the scariest thing to a painter.

Here’s a Catch-22, though: the reason it’s scary is you’re afraid you’re going to produce crap. So if you take August’s tack and produce crap just to be producing something, won’t that make you more afraid of the blank slate? Won’t that make you more afraid of producing? ‘Cause you’ll be realizing your greatest fear. Well, it might make you more afraid. But there’s a good Catch-22 about crap, too: crap can be edited. Throw some paint on the canvas and at least see what doesn’t work. And if you don’t want to waste a stretched canvas, throw some paint on some cheap paper. Just keep moving. If you don’t stumble into something good, you might be able to work your way into what is good by process of elimination. It’s not very romantic, but it works.

I’m working the process now, reworking some awful, cardboard, clich├ęd characters I forced out for a sci-fi series a while ago. I forced them out to keep from getting blocked. I wrote every crappy idea down, convinced myself I could polish them up later, and in the meantime, I kept the flow going. And in the flow, I ended up creating other meatier characters for the series. And the cardboard kids? Now that I’m revamping them, they’re turning into people/characters that actually interest me. I’m actually excited about figuring out what makes them tick. Now if I could only sell this crap... Uh, I meant stuff.

Anonymous said...

I love this! I think you were talking directly to me. Hahahha. I'm going to print this list and keep it in my wallet so I can see it everyday as a reminder. Such great advice!

I like that Darrell also reiterated something you say often: produce crap just to be producing something, although you don't quite say it in those words. :-)


christen said...'re so insightful!! But honestly do do make some great points.